I read with interest Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot's post about his mistake in boosting his training mileage by 300%. Amby is both a better runner and writer than I'll ever be. He won the Boston Marathon in 1968, has run more miles and races than I could ever hope to run, and is a professional writer. Me, I'm a age group runner turned triathlete competing against my buddies and my prior times. As for writing, this blog is about as far as it goes. What we do share in common is both of us tearing in the meniscus in our knees. In deciding whether to have surgery or allow the meniscus to heal itself, I read Amby's prior from last summer about his knee surgery. Amby went in for the surgery, I opted to allow the meniscus to heal naturally.
Both of us had to take time off of our training, and both of us had to be careful in coming back into race shape. I was forced into six to eight week layoff of training before trying to quickly ramp up to marathon shape for the London Marathon the third week of April. I then had to quickly ramp up to 70.3 triathlon shape for the Florida 70.3 in mid-May. The comeback was a fine balance of pushing myself to the limit of my abilities without pushing so hard that I blew out my rehabilitating knee.
During these two events, I did feel some knee pain and it caused me to keep from doing either event full-bore. Since then, I've decided to ease up in my mileage to give the knee adequate time to fully recover. As endurance athletes, I believe we tend to keep adding to the work load, going longer and longer in our training. It is the old "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" mentality. With an injury, I think it best to take time to heal, then slowly build back up. That's where I am now. With no events that I'm scheduled for until October, I've backed off mileage and am doing 5K treadmill workouts for a little more speed. Last Sunday, with most of my friends either doing killer long rides for an Ironman event or out of town, I decided to do a sprint brick. It felt good to keep it shorter and a bit quicker.
From reading Amby's post, it looks like he went the other way. He tripled his weekly training mileage from 25 mile per week up to 75 miles per week. While his knee was fine for the first 6 weeks, it started to bother him. His meniscus appears fine, but the area surrounding the knee hurt. He began to hobble through his runs and now regrets breaking the 10% rule that says to only increase your mileage by 10% per week of training. I think Amby has relearned an old rule the hard way. I too noted after my knee recovery that it wasn't the meniscus that bothered me; it was the area above and below the knee that got sore. I think there may be a compensating fatigue in the area surrounding a healing injury.
In any event, Amby's blog entry reaffirms to me that I'm doing the right thing in backing off and keeping my workouts shorter for these summer months. I'm hoping that this approach brings the knee back fully for the fall. With the focus away from endurance and more on quickness, perhaps I'll get a little faster. That's the hope anyway.